Of a Crumbling Historical Era
Meena Bhargava
TEARS OF THE BEGUMS: STORIES OF SURVIVORS OF THE UPRISING OF 1857 (BEGUMAT KE AANSOO) by Khwaja Hasan Nizami Hachette, India, 2022, 212 pp., ₹ 499.00
March 2023, volume 47, No 3

Tears of the Begums is the first-ever English translation by Rana Safvi of Begumat ke Aansoo, originally written in Urdu by Khwaja Hasan Nizami, a follower of the Sufi order Chishti-Nizamiya and a descendant of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Born almost twenty years after the revolt of 1857, Hasan Nizami’s spiritual pursuits led him to investigate the events of 1857, the encounters of the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, the cruelties meted out to the royal family and the plight of royal family members, many of them women, who survived the revolt. He wrote twelve books on the events that occurred in 1857, based on eye-witness accounts of the survivors. Of these, the most popular collection of stories was Begumat ke Aansoo, published in 1922. It is the vivid account and recollections of the aftermath of the revolt of 1857 that make the narrative an invaluable chronicle. The Urdu version of it was published thirteen times and translated into Hindi, Gujarati, Kannada, Bangla and Marathi. Rana Safvi’s contribution as a translator of this atypical document is exceptional in facilitating wide global access to the happenings and what transpired in 1857. The book was banned by the British Government during the First World War. But its publication was probably revived when Sir Malcolm Hailey was the Governor of the United Provinces sometime between 1928 and 1934, as narrated by Hasan Nizami and mentioned by Rana Safvi in her Translator’s Note.

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